A Senior’s Guide to a four-year plan

A+Senior%27s+Guide+to+a+four-year+plan

Jordyn Daggs-Olson

As a freshman, there are lots of things happening around you that you have to get accustomed to pretty quickly if you want to get a grasp on “college life” within your first semester. On top of figuring out your schedule, meeting new people, balancing academics and social life, you have to start planning for the next four years. This is where the, sometimes dreaded but most of all confusing, four-year plan comes in. Now don’t get me wrong, the four-year plan is a great tool for keeping track of what courses you need to take for your major(s) and minor(s) as well as to satisfy general education requirements. Nevertheless, it is still tricky to understand when you first try reading BVU’s Academic Catalog, choosing courses and deciding where they fit in your next seven semesters. From someone who has helped complete nearly thirty of these four-year plans, here are some important things you should remember.

 

First and foremost, the four-year plan is a living document—it is meant to be changed and altered. Do not feel like it is set in stone when you complete it for University Seminar, because it honestly is not due to the fact that different circumstances arise that force you to change direction. Whether it be a class that is not offered when you were expecting to take it, a class is already full, or you decide to completely change your major, the four-year plan is flexible and should be adapted to fit your needs to ensure that you meet all requirements prior to graduation.

Speaking of requirements—what exactly is required BVU Storm Lake students for them to be eligible to graduate? Well, a rather obvious one is that you have completed all courses required for your declared major. You can have more than one major as well as minors, concentrations or tracks depending on the major you are in. Besides that, all students have general education requirements that they need to satisfy within their four years. This leads to the second point, which is know what the gen eds are and what courses you have taken or need to take to fulfill said requirement. Below is a list of each general education requirement with their credit breakdowns as outlined in BVU’s Academic Catalog:

  1. *Intellectual Foundations:
    1. **Math (MATH100)
    2. Oral Communication (COMM100)
    3. Written Communication (ENGL100 and ENGL200)

*Note: There are test-out options for each of these requirements

**Note: ACT scores for the Math section dictate what math course you take or if you are exempt from the requirement.

  1. Intellectual Explorations:
    1. Business (3 required credits)
    2. Fine Arts (3 required credits)
    3. Science (9 required credits—3 cr. for each)
      1. Physical Science
      2. Computational Science
  • Life Science
  1. Humanities (12 required credits; 3 different disciplines)
    1. Humanities Global Perspective (HGP—6 credits)
    2. Humanities Writing Intensive (HWI—3 credits)

Note: The other 3 required credits can come from a Humanities Elective

  1. Social Science (9 required credits; 3 different disciplines)
    1. Social Science Critical Thinking & Writing (CTW—3 credits)
  • University or Transfer Seminar (3 required credits)
  1. Interdisciplinary Studies (3 required credits)
    1. IDST400—Challenges of the 21st Century

 

Every class has their own academic catalog which can be found on BeaverNet and on BVU’s website under ‘Academic Resources’ on the “Information for Students” webpage. The catalog lists all courses that meet each of the general education requirements as outlined above. A piece of advice when it comes to choosing courses to take for gen ed credit is to, when possible, go for classes that capture your interest, even if it only a little bit. As someone who is not great with science, I was still able to take courses that intrigued me while also challenging me. And that’s lead me to my next point—general education courses are supposed to challenge you. To get outside your comfort zone with your major or school, think creatively and learn things that add to your education as a total person. If you take those courses seriously, you can see how they apply to your major, career interest, or just make you more than a one-dimensional human who only knows and can perform tasks within their field.

 

If you took college-credit courses in high school, it is vital that you look to see how they transferred in as those can possibly take care of some of you general education requirements. Here are the steps to looking for that:

  1. Log in to BeaverNet.
  2. Go to the ‘Academics’ tab on the upper banner.
  3. On the left-hand side, click on the link that says “Degree Audit, Unoff Transcripts, Major Exploration.
  4. Click on the link for “printer-friendly unofficial transcript”
  5. Scroll through the pages of this document that is separated by the requirements outlined like they were above along with all the classes that could be taken. If you see ***T, look at the number of credits on the right-hand side along with a course code. This tells you how many credits transferred for that course and what BVU course it equates to.

Other options to keep in mind are the opportunities to take online courses and fill out academic actions. Something that most students are unaware of is that you are able to transfer course credits from other institutions such as community colleges. An example of this would be if you wanted to take a summer course from a community college to transfer back for a gen ed. However, before you do that, be sure to check with your advisor and the Registrar’s Office for approval before paying to take the class only for it to not count. There is a specific deadline when students are no longer allowed to transfer credits and is outlined in the Academic Program Policies & Procedures section of the academic catalog. The other thing to mention here is the use of academic actions. An academic action can be used for multiple purposes such as academic overload, pass/fail grade changes, requirement waiver, and course substitutions. In regard to the four-year plan, course substitutions can be useful if there is no way that you will be able to take a required course whether that be for a gen ed or for your major. From my experience, requests to waive a requirement are much more difficult to get approved but it simply depends on the circumstances, so use your advisor to determine what is the best plan of action.

The final recommendation I will make is for you to plan ahead. Although it seems like a long time for now, the decisions you make now on what courses you take will impact how each of the rest of your semesters look. Your advisor (who is most likely someone in your major and probably not your University Seminar advisor) is a great asset, so speak with them and consider your options more than just once a semester right before you are about to register. Trust their recommendations, but do not be afraid to have another pair of your eyes on your four-year plan. It is better to have multiple people look at it to see if there is anything missing rather than find out later in your academic career that you are missing multiple credits. Another important thing to note about spacing your credits out through your four years is to ensure that you have required credits for your senior year. Financial Aid is required to do a degree audit and if you are not taking at least twelve credits of courses that are required for gen eds, major(s) or minors, then they could reduce your financial aid because you are not technically a “full-time” student. Make sure that you have twenty-four required credits (twelve per semester) for your senior year to make sure you are not faced with any surprises come the start of fall or spring semester.

While daunting at first, do not let the four-year plan stress you out too much. It is something that can really help you be successful in your four years here at BVU, so long as you let it work as a tool that guides your course scheduling.